Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 4: Three Sundays

I knew that watching the fifth episode before writing about the fourth one would mess me up. Darn it! Now my thoughts are all muddled, and because I cannot allow myself to take the time to watch “Three Sundays” a third time, I have to go on fuzzy memory. It bugs me now that my impressions of this episode are going to be colored by what I’ve seen in the next one, but what can you do?

You can keep up, that’s what you can do. I have a long explanation for why I am at this point, but considering that blogging anything is a vanity project for me in the first place and that my audience of forty probably never stays to actually read the posts, and it will end up being a tale with a non-surprising ending, why go into detail? I’ll just skip ahead to the salient part: I had work for money to do. A fair argument to make would be that if I’d done work for money in the first place instead of worrying about this blog, then I wouldn’t have had to put off the blog for work for money, but that kind of circular reason never goes anywhere.

So anyway…

Three Sundays: Sunday, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I think I am just going to ramble and associate, starting with Don, even though it was totally Peggy’s story–and her sister’s. So might as well start with Don’s big reveal: victim of child abuse.

It is an amazing admission for Don to say that aloud, I think, but we learned far more about Betty in this episode than Don, I think. I am trying hard not to villainize her because we very rarely see her interact with anyone but Don, who dismisses her most of the time, but she really is out of control regarding the little boy. And could the producers have selected a cuter little boy to tug on our sympathies? It’s obvious to me that the kid is trying to manifest some real talent and interest in the way things work, what with the art project/tracing paper scandal (I think he was drawing well from memory) and his interest in mechanical and chemical processes (it was totally the bubbling of the pancakes that attracted his attention to the stove). Betty has decided for some reason to turn against her son, and I can’t figure out why. It’s not like there haven’t been men in her life–she has a brother and a father she visits and worries about. I think what she’s doing… AT BEST… is exaggerating the little boy’s wickedness (I really should look up his name) to get Don’s attention, which is what she wants. I don’t know how psychologically stunted she is and how much of an act she puts on (I think she’s more self-aware than she lets on), but she wants Don to treat her like a partner and to check back into the family. Men doing the discipline thing probably seems like the most logical place for him to start. However nutty Betty’s mother might have been, I don’t think she was hit or spanked as a child and really doesn’t think about what she is asking Don to do when she demands corporeal punishment. It seems to me that she is trying to reconcile her position as housewife instead of professional person, and needs other people to play the Father Knows Best role so hers has some meaning. Of course, the minute Don makes it clear why he isn’t that angry at the little boy and why he isn’t going to hit him, Betty drops it. I am wrong with every prediction I make ever for TV, but I like to think we’ve seen the last of Betty hounding her boy and punishing him as a scapegoat for Don.

Dialogue of Note: Carla isn’t there to raise their children. I was happy to hear Betty say that aloud.

This is how my sad, little, white privilege mind works: Speaking of Carla reminds me of Sheila, which reminds me of Paul Kinsey talking to Little Girl Draper (still too lazy to look it up) about his girlfriend. I found the contrast between how Paul interacted with Don’s daughter and how Joan interacted with Don’s daughter interesting. Paul really didn’t seem to mind the girl’s company and was quite at ease with her; it wasn’t until the sex talk started that he ducked out of the conversation. Joan hated every minute she was with that girl. I think first she was annoyed as hell that she was stuck with some domestic charge that really should have had nothing to do with her when it was clearly such an important business day and there really was so much to do. But I also think she doesn’t quite know what to do with kids. She can make nice to Roger’s teenage daughter about hair salons, but little girls? Especially little girls talking about boobies? Especially the boobies of the boss’s wife? It is a trying day.

I thought it was funny to see all the employees in their Sunday fun wear. The actual challenge of designing an ad campaign concept in a hurry wasn’t as interesting to me as the snapshot of what everyone else really had planned on doing instead. I am amazed that so many people were found so quickly and brought in without cell phones and answering machines, and I would like to ponder that more (but won’t). I was shocked by how bad Salvatore looked. He was sick or panicked or something; perhaps that is some artifact of my imagination but he looked more out of place than Peter in his tennis gear. Later I wondered, on Presentation Day (which was also Good Friday) if it was a coincidence that both Joan and Peggy were wearing purple. It seems like too much of a coincidence for the characters to be expressing religious sentiment in that way (especially those two characters), but I’ll leave the socioreligious analysis and commentary for someone else to perform. It just really, really caught my eye is all. The conversation about new business and old business and Duck seemed perfunctory, but the tension probably did need to be spelled out for the audience; I certainly wasn’t thinking along those lines until the script made me do so. It’s serviceable foreshadowing.

There! With all the Mad Ave Mad Men stuff out of the way, I get to talk about Peggy! And Father What a Waste! It was nice to see Peggy get a little flirty with a guy, even if it was a guy so safe as to be boring. At least he has his own car, has been to Rome, and a good sense of humor. And he recognizes talent when he comes across it. I am happy that Peggy and he “collaborated” (to the extent that it was a collaboration) on his sermon. I am also happy that Peggy found a way to avoid being in a photograph with a priest without making a fuss over it.

I am not at all surprised that Peggy’s mother and sister know exactly what she does at work, even if they are making like they don’t get it when Peggy’s the person they are talking to. I suppose it is a shame the way the mother goes on and on about how beautiful/smart/successful the younger daughter is, and it’s not really surprising that the older sister is jealous of her sister, but the overt displays of resentment make me sad. To her credit, she saves the worst of it for the confession booth, and takes up her problems with how the mother treats Peggy with the mother and not with Peggy. You can’t help what you feel, I guess, only how you react to it–and she is handling herself in public in a mature and reasonable way. I wish she wasn’t internalizing it so much. She is so clearly disappointed by something in life (it could be anything; we really don’t know her) but she is not addressing it. She’s picking on Peggy instead.

I am about to get artsy-fartsy film criticky, probably without reason, but this episode seemed to have an awful lot of doors in it: doors opening, people framed in doorways, shots through doors to other rooms… it made me think about how some people are traveling through doors and how some people are stuck inside rooms. Of course the idea that open doors represent opportunity is at the top of my mind, and all this door business only underscored how little opportunity is presenting itself to Peggy’s sister and how little effort she seems to be making to seek it out. I am convinced that she knew exactly what priest was going to be in that confession booth with her, and I’m positive that she dumped on Peggy in the booth to malign her to the priest who was openly admiring the wayward sister instead of the one who actually stayed home and cooked dinner (dinner that the priest couldn’t be bothered to stay for, either). I also think that in real life the sister would have answered priestly Latin with Latin and that the English was just so the audience would be able to follow the conversation.

Dialogue of Note: I can see why Betty wouldn’t want to bother Francine on a Sunday morning with unexpected babysitting, but is Palm Sunday that important? Seems like this was a big detail to have about Betty or Francine or the times, but I can’t figure out what. Was it just that Francine was planning an event that day or is the holiday that religiously significant?

Random Thoughts: OK, it’s Good Friday when the American Airlines deal sours, but I don’t see where a resurrection is happening (and not to be spoilery but it isn’t carried through in the next episode, either). Haha… Don doesn’t care that his kid is passed out drunk–those were crazy times! It seems important that the sister knows that Pete was a married man when Peggy was boinking him; I’ve got this theory that Peggy and Pete knew each other from before and it’s fuzzy and undeveloped and completely without textual support but this tidbit of gossip feeds into it somehow. It’s interesting that even though Peggy’s family is generally supportive of her job they lie to the priest when he asks why she’s absent… or did Peggy tell them that she was sick and not that she was going into work? Maybe that’s more likely. I am fascinated that Don knows how to make such beautiful, fluffy pancakes. I hope the President or Owner or CEO or whatever the title is at Mohawk Airlines derives some satisfaction out of this debacle. I’d use that German word for it if I knew how to spell it. You’ll just have to trust that I know how to say it and I’ll trust that you know what word I mean.

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